The Dallas Mavericks? Really? After last night’s not-so-close Game 6, a game in which I personally thought LeBron (after his early fast start) was going to dominate; our NBA season came to an end. It’s in the books that the Dallas Mavericks were indeed the best team in our league – in the playoffs at least, which is where it matters most. The ink is dry on the several hundred blogs and articles describing these Finals, and they all feature the sae recurring theme.
“Talent alone is not enough”
Remember the 2004 Lakers? Kobe, Shaq, Payton and Malone. Four All Timers, beaten by the better team in Detroit. This series was meant to be the validation, on the grandest stage of them all, for these Miami Heat SuperFriends. They could finally quieten all the haters who bashed them since The Decision, silence all the critics whose stomachs they turned with their over the top welcoming party. “Not one, not two, not five” and so it went that night. Turned out it was actually six where they should have stopped, because that’s all it took for a Dallas Mavericks team who ranked 11th in points per game in the regular season to best the trio in South Beach. Dallas also ranked 14th in rebounds per game (Miami 9th) and 10th overall in points allowed (Miami were 6th). You’d think those things would be indicative of how this series would pan out; Miami would simply overpower their older counterparts with their speed and quickness, with the star power of James and Wade too much too handle over 7 games for the seasoned Mavs. Instead, it was another regular season stat that stood out for me. Dallas ranked 2nd in the NBA in assists per game.
Miami were 26th.
There, you have the actual tale of this memorable Finals series – team over individuals. Who’d a thought it that Brian Cardinal and Ian Mahinmi would have such a say in things. Mahinmi coming in when Dirk got two early fouls and making a nuisance of himself, while Cardinal did some hideously disgusting things to ensure the Mavs won. They took the bumps for the better of the team. Jason Kidd, who’s actually older than Mario Chalmers and JJ Barea combined, was so much better than his numbers indicate. His defense on LeBron and Wade at times was textbook and the ass kicking he laid down on Mike Bibby was fun to watch. Kidd only tallied 46 points over the 6 games, but his leadership was evident from the outset. He may not have had the jaw dropping assist rate we’re accustomed to from Kidd, but I reckon he averaged double digits in the “pass before the assist” category. He dictated the tempo beautifully, knowing when to slow the game down and knowing when to speed it up. His basketball IQ shone brighter than the bright lights that lured Bosh and James to Miami. He played like a 17-year veteran should have played, and now he has the jewellery to show for it. Validation, for a career for the ages.
Jason Terry now has the ring he should have been fitted for five years ago, and has also gotten validation for his pre-season tattoo of the Larry O’Brien trophy inside his bicep. Terry was the star in the clinching game, knocking down 27 huge points in 34 action-packed minutes. People thought Dirk was a little harsh when he claimed that Terry wasn’t performing like he should be earlier in the series, but all questions are erased now. Jason Terry has Dirk’s back, and now he has the ring to justify it.
Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler – tell me that three years ago you’d have had them outplaying Chris Bosh and LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals. The NBA, where amazing shit literally happens.
Mark Cuban, a guy I personally thought was a bit of a loud mouth before these playoffs, my respect for you has grown immeasurably. Not because you spent the dollars to put this team together, not because you left Rick Carlisle do his thing and hire his people, but because of the classy act you threw out after the game. For somebody as obsessed with winning as you are, to finally get your hands on the trophy that has evaded you for so long, only for you to let somebody else lift it was a touch of class I haven’t seen for a long long time. Allowing Donald Carter, the founder of the Mavericks in 1980, to lift the trophy was a sign of how much you’ve come along these past few weeks. You kept your mouth shut, and let your team do the talking. Validation for the former loudmouth, because, as he said so proudly last night, “Did anybody inform you guys, we’re the World Champions?!”
Finally, I come to Dirk. The guy who was too soft to get it done in 2006; the guy who was punked by the number eight seeded Golden State the year after; the former MVP who never got a ring; the influenza riddled German who LeBron and Wade poked fun at during the week; the same Wade that pointed out Dirk wasn’t able to be the guy Dallas needed him to be when they squandered a 2-0 lead in 2006. You put together a six game run that will forever live in my memory banks. I don’t care that you went 24-64 over the last three games of the series; you delivered when it mattered most – crunch time. You were always there for your team, making shots that had Jeff Van Gundy salivating from the opening tip and stepping up when the games were on the line. Shooting 98% from the charity stripe, under the kinda pressure that only the NBA Finals can create, is incredible. Half of us mere mortals wouldn’t shoot 98% on layups. Dirk has taken his overall legacy to a new level; and he’s right up there with the very best forwards and shooters to ever step onto a basketball court. He can give all the credit he wants to his shooting coach; to Mark Cuban, to Rick Carlisle, to his teammates, to his fans, to what or whomever he likes…but this is on him. Dirk Nowitzki is the 2011 NBA Champions; he just brought the Dallas Mavericks along for the ride.
Validation, for the soft European that couldn’t deliver when it seemed impossible to fail.
To all my fellow Cavalier guys out there, validation. Validation for putting down our wine and gold and rocking the blue of Dallas for these six games. It may be only one year that we can say this, but do we care? Thought so…